Destination Inspiration: Viseu, Portugal

Done Lisbon? Ventured to Porto? Put this lesser-known city in Portugal's Centro region on your radar for a cultured city break with nature on its doorstep. Viseu's azulejo-dotted streets are a must-visit for renaissance art, impressive cathedrals and tavernas pouring robust Dão wine - plus, there's plenty of green space for a breath of countryside air.


Viseu, Portugal

Why now?

Set on a steep hill, this provincial city has postcard-worthy vistas across terracotta-tiled roofs to the surrounding Centro region, where vineyards, pine forests and mountains form a pastoral patchwork. It's small wonder Viseu is ranked among Portugal's best cities in which to live.

Encircled by 15th-century ramparts, Viseu's hilltop historic quarter is best explored by foot - free roam between plazas and alleyways, stopping at Rua Escura, Rua Direita and Rua Augusto Hilário for photo ops before dipping into gourmet shops and tavernas peddling local produce. Earthy red plonk from Dão (one of Portugal's oldest wine regions) is popular here, as well as quality cheese and sausage. Keep your eyes peeled for samples.

Crowning the city is the 12th-century Sé Catedral de Viseu, the oldest building here. Take a tour to discover its mishmash of roman, gothic and baroque styles. Art lovers should make a beeline for the Grão Vasco Museum to ogle pieces by local renaissance artist Vasco Fernandes, as well as other Portuguese paintings, sculpture and tapestries dating from the 1200s to the 20th century.

Culture-fix satiated, walk in the dappled light that dances between the oak and chestnut trees of Parque do Fontelo, the city's largest green space. Alternatively, fill your lungs with fresh mountain air on a more rigorous hike on the Serra do Caramulo before dipping into the therapeutic São Pedro do Sul baths.

Don't miss

… the city's best tiles. Head to the Rossio area, where the handsome Praça da República is bordered by artist Joaquim Lopes' blue-and-white Painel de Azulejos, depicting pastoral scenes of yesteryear.

Where to stay?

Stay at Quinta do Medronheiro, a converted farmhouse that provides the perfect fusion of modern and traditional style. Set among charming vineyards and watermills, this hotel surpasses any offerings in the city centre - be sure to explore its surrounding hiking trails.

Where to go for dinner…

Book a table at O Hilário. Just a short walk from the cathedral, this family-run restaurant offers a menu packed with steaks, sausages and stews. If a mighty meaty dish doesn't quite cut it for you, there are a few fish options too, though you'll probably have to ask for veggie dishes.

And for a drink…

You'll want to head to Lounge, partly for its mouth-watering cocktails, but largely for its industrial-chic decor. This bar is wrapped with wooden panels and warm pendant lights, both making for a very cushty set-up.

Who to take with you

If you're a couple looking for an under-radar first-holiday destination, Viseu is your spot. You can thank us when you're planning a return for your 20th wedding anniversary.

When to go

Early August to mid-September is the ideal time to visit; sun-worshippers will be guaranteed some serious rays. During this period, the city hosts a range of events and festivals. We recommend a ramble around the famous São Mateus Fair, which has drawn locals with folk music, handicrafts and food stalls for more than 600 years.

Essentials to pack

A pair of trainers in which you can stomp around the trails. This pair of Kim Jones Chuck 70 Converse sneakers should be the perfect fit.

How to get there

Fly to Porto's Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, from where it's a 90-minute drive to Viseu.

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